Grace Manheim-Loftis

@grace-manheim-loftis | contributor
Surviving, hopeful for thriving.

Choosing Family Over Depression and Suicide

Tonight I cried. I’m so tired of struggling with suicidal thoughts and feelings. I cried not for myself but for my children, my husband, my friends. I cried because I can’t imagine not seeing my baby girl’s second birthday. I can’t imagine not being there for my son’s first day of middle school. I can’t imagine my husband as a single father. A widower. I cried because my friends would miss me. They would wonder if there was more they could have done. I cried because I can’t be fixed. The longer I struggle with this, the more I realize it. The more helpless and overwhelmed I feel. The more trapped I become. Trapped because as dark and compelling as these thoughts are, I know my death would hurt those in my life. I know my children need their mother. I know my husband needs his wife. I battle a war in my mind — does my life do more damage? Or would my death do more damage? For me, death would certainly be easier. But then I’d never see my children grow up. The cycle of depression, abandonment, suicide as a viable option, would only be strengthened in their lives. So I lie here, a war raging in my mind. Life. Death. Life. Death. For tonight, I’m going to snuggle in to my daughter a little closer. Feel her sweet baby breath on my cheek. I’m going to hold my husband’s hand across the bed. I’m going to plan on waking up in the morning and making my son his favorite breakfast — Coco Wheaties. Tonight, life wins. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 o r text “START” to 741-741 . Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via Creatas

The Struggles of Healing From Childhood Sexual Abuse as an Adult

Editor’s Note: If you’ve experienced sexual, physical or emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. I wake up and for a few blissful moments, I’ve forgotten about the night of broken dreams and memories that leave me feeling frantic. I see my sweet baby girl’s grin, hear my son’s TV blaring the ever-present ESPN, smell my husband’s aftershave wafting in from the bathroom, and everything feels right in the world. I check my phone, and there are texts confirming plans for the day. Everything is good. I am loved. I am safe. I stumble to the shower, still a little groggy from not getting much sleep the night before. For those first 15 minutes of the day, I function as a “normal” human. I am OK. Sometimes, soon after getting in the shower, something starts to change. I feel the sadness start to creep back into my soul. Suddenly, the hot water running down my body doesn’t feel comforting. Suddenly it’s the unwanted, confusing caresses from a much older male, and I’m a frozen, frightened little girl. I feel myself crashing. All the pleasant things that happened this morning fade away. Now it’s his sinister grin in my head, it’s his heavy breathing I hear, the smell of his breath, hot on my face. My plans for the day are replaced by him — the plans he had for me all those years ago, playing out over and over in my mind. I try to lose myself in cleaning. As I’m scrubbing furiously, something occurs in direct correlation to the intensity of the memory. When there are moments of reprieve, I collapse on the couch exhausted both mentally and physically. I want it to stop now just as desperately as I wanted it to stop then. I can’t reach out to anyone. I can’t ask for help. I’m afraid to ask for help because it seems like the same thing happens to me, over and over and over. I know what coping skills I’m supposed to use. I also know sometimes they are totally useless. Right now is one of those times. It’s something I have to ride out, learn how to live through again, this time trying to applying some of the truths I’ve learned as an adult, truths I didn’t understand as a child. Sometimes, it takes weeks or months to work through. Sometimes, I think I’ve worked through it and put it to rest, and months down the road, it rears its ugly head. I get lost in how hard it is to work through these things. I’m stunned each time at how much it hurts. But once I’m on the other side, it’s beyond rewarding to see how far I’ve come — to see all the progress I’m making. It’s the ultimate form of self-love and healing to be able to stare that memory down, knowing it doesn’t have power over me anymore. I am my own person. I am healing. I am living a good life, full of love, full of purpose. No one is hurting me now. No one will ever hurt me like that again. If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via Archv.

When Dissociative Identity Disorder Surfaces in an Adult

Editor’s Note: If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 . Imagine a giant bucket designed only to hold raindrops that are deemed tainted, a danger if they enter the water supply or ground and absorbed by plants. Its a big bucket, and it does its job effectively for years. Eventually, it starts to fill up. There’s no plan on what to do once this bucket is full. No one thought this day would ever come, and when the bucket was initially built, it was an emergency situation. The rain was coming down strong, and if those dangerous rain drops weren’t caught and separated from the rest, the entire ecosystem would die. The last raindrop that the bucket will hold falls in, and the water starts to leak out, affecting everything around it. No one can stop it. The bucket is full. There is no back up plan. This is very similar to dissociative identity disorder (DID) . When you are experiencing trauma as a child, you don’t think about the future. The mental capacity isn’t there to think about the future. You don’t have sophisticated coping skills. You don’t have a long term plan. Your imagination kicks in and the deep recesses of your brain become like large buckets, absorbing the trauma you can’t handle and would prevent you from functioning in your daily life, which is so essential when you are going through repeated trauma. Those deep recesses assume new identities. They assume new names. They hold trauma, fear, specific purposes. They hold the things that aren’t safe for you to hold as a child – an emotion, such as anger, or all of the trauma related to a specific trauma, anything, that as a child you couldn’t handle. Sometimes the system becomes more sophisticated – creating protector parts, mothering parts, the possibilities are endless. No one’s DID looks the same. For a while, those buckets keep absorbing trauma and memories. Eventually, something happens that causes one of those buckets to overflow, or tip over. It could be a trigger – for example, say Sally’s grandpa always listened to country music before hurting her, we will say Willie Nelson specifically. One day, when Sally is 25 years old, she is walking through the mall, and Willie Nelson is playing from a county-western store. Suddenly, she’s no longer 25… the part of Sally that was created when she was 3 comes forward, expecting a trauma. This is the triggering event that tips the 3 year old’s bucket over. There’s no more room for any more memories in that bucket. Sally is at a safe place in her life, and her mind is finally going to let her address and work on these traumas. Generally, at this point, during the initial triggering event that reopens the childhood trauma after the person with DID is an adult, they might not realize what happening. Maybe they’re losing time, finding strange childlike drawings, sometimes find themselves dressed in clothes they would never wear, or somewhere they don’t remember going, but aside from the awareness that “something” is wrong, they are clueless. Generally, they seek help in different forms, and go through years of therapy with multiple wrong diagnoses before finally achieving the correct diagnosis. Even at the point, the person with DID might not want to accept it. For me personally, I went to therapy two to three times a week for over a year, almost one and a half years before we ever landed on the correct diagnosis. Before that I had been to four different therapists as a child/adolescent. Even now, four years into therapy (twice a week minimum) and daily contact with my therapist, I still have days where I try to deny my diagnosis and symptoms. I have begged my therapist to diagnose and treat me for false memory syndrome instead. Denial takes its toll. After acceptance finally happens, it’s time to get to know the personalities, work on coping skills, learn how to self-soothe, eventually work on memories, recognize triggers and work towards merging if that’s your end goal. It doesn’t go in any sort of linear order. It would be nice if it did. Sometimes it’s five steps forward and 10 steps back. It takes hard work. A good support system is essential. A good therapist is essential. But the thing to remember is that every day you wake up, live your life, go to therapy — the good days, the bad days, the day you want to die, the days you don’t remember, the days it doesn’t seem like you even have DID — in the grand scheme of things you are healing. You are moving forward even when it feels like you’ve been knocked back to square one, or even to square -473. It takes strength and resilience to work through trauma. It takes courage to keep breathing when it feels like everything is falling down around you. One day you will wake up and realize you have had more good days than bad days over the past week. It’s a messy, scary, bittersweet, sometimes beautiful, sometimes ugly, ride – but it’s your ride. It’s OK to feel. It’s OK to have bad days. And most importantly, it’s OK to heal. If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741 . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via zemaciel

'Split' Movie Not Accurate Portrayal of Dissociative Identity Disorder

I saw the preview for “ Split ” blowing up my newsfeed. Friends, colleagues and people who hold esteemed positions in my life raved about how good it was going to be. My curiosity piqued and I clicked to see what it was about. I immediately knew I had made a mistake. I felt like I was sitting in a fishbowl watching some horrible depiction of everyone’s worst fears about psychiatric issues, especially dissociative identity disorder (DID). As someone living with dissociative identity disorder who has attended two DID conferences, I can assure you no one was kidnapping anyone and forcing them to live in some alternate version of reality. I could sit here all day and tell you what DID is not. But instead, let me tell you what DID is. 1. DID stems from trauma. Typically chronic and horrific child abuse, though there can be other causes as well. Children have great imaginations. My therapist always says, “It takes a truly brilliant child to create an alternate identity to hold the abuse so the original child can continue living and surviving.” If you are being subjected to daily torture as a child, you will do whatever it takes to survive. Children have limited coping skills. Their greatest asset? Imagination. So if 3-year-old “Sally” is being abused daily by her grandpa, but has been threatened if she tells bad things will happen, Sally may push the trauma into a separate part of her mind and call it “Jane.” Now, every time Grandpa comes to hurt Sally, the door to “Jane” is opened. Jane takes the trauma and then once it’s over, Sally comes back and continues to survive, not thinking about or feeling the trauma that just happened. 2. Certain events may trigger someone with DID and cause a personality to pop out. People with DID survived by being able to blend into any situation and not make a fuss. In general, you will never know someone with DID is switching personalities. I can count on one hand the number of people who know my diagnosis. I work with the public every day. I am involved in the community I live in. Yes, I have dissociated after being triggered. No one noticed, except those who knew what to look for to help me get grounded back to the present. I am not a threat to society. The only person I’m a threat to is myself. 3. Part of being in therapy is learning to set boundaries within yourself, to prevent dissociation in inappropriate places. Most DID systems have something like a protector or mom figure. In my system, I have a part who mimics me almost perfectly, but does not feel any of the trauma we have endured. She can keep others in their “rooms” and get us to a safe place to deal with whatever is triggering us. 4. People with DID can merge and become one again. It is a long, lengthy process. It takes years and a wonderful support system but it can and does happen. 5. Everyone dissociates. Dissociation is the root of DID. Imagine driving a familiar route, say on your way home from work. You leave the parking lot, merge into the highway and then the next thing you know, you’re getting off on your exit with no recollection of the drive? That’s dissociation. Have you ever been in a wreck and remember only bits and pieces? Have you ever read the same page of the book three times because you keep “zoning out?” Dissociation. It does not make you a monster, anymore than it makes me a monster. 6. We work hard at blending in. I’ve met people with DID who are doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, stay-at-home parents, fast food workers, retail workers, therapists. We exist and function as members of society. We work hard at healing. We are successful, productive humans as well. I believe in having fun. I love a good movie, just like anyone else. Please, if you do watch “Split,” remember it is Hollywood’s version of DID. Can someone with DID murder? Yes. Can someone without DID murder? Yes. But DID is not the thing that makes someone a murderer, kidnapper, rapist or bad person. DID is a survival skill. Just like there are more fatal car crashes than plane crashes each year, it’s that one plane crash that gets the media attention because it’s so rare. The same principle applies here and this is the Hollywood version of a very real problem many people live with every day. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Image from Split Movie Facebook.